Shirov's Three Passers Too Hot To Handle!
What's up, guys and gals? And welcome to my new series
Many great games were suggested in the comments section, though I could only pick one which turned out to be quite interesting! Shirov played a brilliant move (the type even computers can't quite comprehend! ), though the game leading up to that point was also quite interesting.
One nice thing about analyzing these games (especially the older ones), is learning about the players and their history. The two players squaring off are Topalov and Shirov. In my opinion, most players (especially millennials) see neither player as serious world championship contenders, though see Topalov as the slightly superior player. Topalov was in the Candidates two years ago, while Shirov has not played on that stage since 2007. And Veselin Topalov is currently world #17 (not bad for a 42-year old!). Shirov's? #123.
Oh, and did you know that both players peaked within the world's top two? Shirov #2 and Topalov #1! (plus, Topalov was world #2 behind Magnus Carlsen only less than three years ago).
However, I found it interesting that these players have a history together, Shirov leading the series 13-6 with 21 draws. In Linares tournaments (an annual event "back in the day" with the participation of the likes of Kasparov and Anand), Shirov holds a massive 5-1 score against Topalov!
Believe it or not: Topalov has a better score (in classical chess) against Carlsen than Shirov!
Anyways, I hope you enjoyed my pre-game analysis a little bit! On to the game!
As I mentioned previously, we will dive into the game in segments. The opening was a Grunfeld, which I do have some familiarity with, though I am not a specialist. Wish me luck!
Why Ne2 over Nf3?
To an amateur, it may seem weird to play Ne2 as a developing move when you can play Nf3. However, it makes more sense as Black wants to employ moves such as c5, Qa5, and Nc6, bringing in the heat on the center, and defending c3 will be vital. After all, the Knight is certainly not a horrible piece on e2!
This is the variation after 20... Bxd4 21. cxd4, Qxd4. Black turns out to be in big trouble. White's next move will be f4. If you are Black, it is against your instincts and intuition to play gxf4, opening your King position, but what else? g5 drops a pawn, and White's threat is h3-g4, trapping the Bishop. As an addition, when your Bishop is developed on g7/g2, and your King is castled on that side, you RARELY want to trade off your fianchettoed Bishop. Consequences will suffer if that is done.
White forces the transition into the endgame with 33. c4, though it does lose another pawn, the result is an opposite-colored Bishop ending. Did White realize this? Did he think his chances were better here than with a move like Nf3? Topalov was going to have the tall task of defending the inferior endgame. I still think Nf3 is by far the better an more risk-free move.